In the past, I would find myself sitting on my couch during a beautiful spring & summer day and using the excuse of a baseball game on TV to avoid chores or yard work. Today, I didn’t do that. I was doing yard work, on a beautiful spring day, and enjoying every moment of it while listening to the Red Sox on the MLB At Bat 2013 iPhone app.
The benefits of canceling Cable TV for a second time, joining a rapidly growing group of friends and colleagues in my generation, are really starting to show in small ways. In the morning, I seem to have more time to relax before heading to work. At night, I’m usually listening to music with my wife, perhaps watching an episode of The West Wing on Netflix, or devouring books like I used to back in high school.
This is a small step for me to become more minimalist with my life. A little less clutter, frustration (those awful Cable TV boxes), and entertainment on demand the way I want it (instead of being spoon fed it) really seems to be helping me out.
Broadcasters should be worrying about “Zero TV” homes big time.
The northeast area of the United States was hit by an incredible blizzard. Where I live in Manchester, New Hampshire we had about 21″ of snow in about a 24 hour period. Through more snowfall, wind blowing snow around, and cold temperatures (low 20s) I spent about two hours clearing out the driveway with my snowblower (best purchase I’ve ever made.
Front yard and mailbox buried by Blizzard of 2013
My Subaru completely buried by Blizzard of 2013
My wife and I hadn’t taken a vacation together in almost two years. Sure we had taken “time off” during this time period, but none of those for vacation reasons and never both of us officially enjoying that time together for an extended period of time. It’s been a year and a half of unbelievable highs and the lowest of lows.
In the past year we have experienced the death of my aunt and a few months later, my grandfather. The lead up two their deaths bringing unbelievable stress as two people I loved dearly had their health deteriorate before my eyes. My mother-in-law had one hell of a health scare, including us receiving a horrible update while flying down to see her (good news is she has fully recovered in the past year).
It wasn’t all bad news though, but even the good came with stress and huge time commitments. We sold our condo, found & moved into a new house in an intense 45 day period that even had us literally driving to our closing not sure if it would actually happen (it did, barely). My career and employer absolutely took off beyond my wildest dreams, causing many long hours and intense concentration on my part as I elevated me and my team’s game. I’ve traveled eight times this year for work (twice to England), even nice with my wife despite me working the whole time.
Point is, I’ve been running on empty for quite awhile, both emotionally and physically. Without realizing it. And it has taken a true vacation, with no commitments (other than family with a perfectly timed and much anticipated Christmas) to finally realize it.
With just under a week left in my 10 day vacation, I’m enjoying every second of it by taking pride in the little things I can do at the pace I want to do them at. Simply put, I’m letting my brain unwind and regenerate the energy I need for 2013 to be successful. My wife and I have spent some much needed time with just the two of us without a commitment in the world. It’s probably the last time we will be able to say that, so we are enjoying it while we can.
What I hope 2013 will be is…normal. No moves, reasonable among of travel, stability personally and professionally….
…and God willing, no deaths.
The other day I declared RSS Bankruptcy.
Simply put, the approach of having 250+ RSS feeds categorized across dozens of topical folders in Google Reader had reached the point of being unsustainable. I had too much to read (often 1400+ articles if I didn’t touch it all day) and too little time to do it. I in fact came to dread reading my RSS feeds due to the sheer volume, yet I feared missing something important.
Talking inspiration from a 43 Folders post from a few years ago with a few twists of my own, I did the following:
- Exported my OPML file of what became my former feed list.
- Saved an HTML copy of the Google Reader page listing my subscriptions.
- Deleted all RSS feeds and folders from Google Reader.
- Went through my exported list of feeds by hand to determine which ones to subscribe to again.
- Categorized each feed in one of three folders: Read First, Read Next and Someday.
In the end, I had knocked down my list of RSS feeds from 250+ to 120. I also had three folders that allow me to quickly pick off what is important to read:
- Read First is exactly what it sounds like. If I have a little time but not a lot, I dive into this folder first to catch up on news articles and any feed I determined was worth reading no matter what. These are usually time sensitive articles or they are authors who’s writing I so admire that if they write something, it is usually worth my attention.
- Read Next is what I get to if I have some more time and aren’t typically time sensitive. I may go through Read Next once every day or two, typically in a longer session as this maybe a few hundred articles by the time I get to it.
- Someday is what I get to on a slow day. These are not time sensitive articles. Maybe they are a company or person site that I’ve wanted to keep an eye on. I wouldn’t shed a tear if I don’t get to the Someday folder in days or maybe even a week.
It is day three of this approach it has revolutionized my method for consuming information on the Internet. I am not constantly struggling to keep up with my RSS subscriptions. I monitor the Read First folder when I get a few minutes here and there during the day, tackle Read Next typically at night if time allows, and then Someday whenever I feel like it.
Next up…my Twitter follower list.
I considered myself to be a very secure geek, who follows recommended practices for keeping my data safe and secure. That is until I read this harrowing account of Mat Honan’s entire digital life being erased and taken over in a matter of minutes.
The scary part about this event is that while there was steps that Mat could have done to protect his data (backups!), there is literally nothing he could do regarding Amazon and Apple’s account recovery policies being so weak that it took trivial detective work to take over his accounts.
In this case, the scariest part of this for Mat was the loss of data due to not having proper backups. He could get his Gmail, Twitter, etc. accounts back, but has to cross his fingers that data recovery can be done on his laptop for the priceless photos and other data that weren’t properly backed up.
Backups are the one thing that everyone regrets not having when disaster strikes. The reason everyone regrets not setting up backups is that historically, backups are a pain in the ass, especially if you use a laptop. Luckily the days of going to your backup drive and pulling out the backup tape have long since passed and there are options that are literally set and forget:
- Local Backups – In my case, I have a Time Capsule that does this for me hourly and most importantly, without me having to initiate any action other than my laptop being on and in my house.
- Remote Backups – I use the cloud for this. Backblaze is awesome, cheap, and a extremely easy to use. I’m even contemplating using my own Private Key so no one can get to my data unless you have this key.
- Offsite Backup – This is one that I admit is still on my to-do list. I probably will get some big 3.5″ hard drives, do a massive backup, and store the drives offsite in a safe deposit box or at a relative’s house. Then maybe once a quarter refresh the backup.
These simple measures will ensure that as long as one of my three backup options are safe, my data is in turn safe and recoverable.